I could feel the pressure waves reverberating through my body. They started with a tingling in my feet, raced up my torso and stopped in my chest. I was keenly aware of every heartbeat, the dull pounding amplified by the force pressing upon my body. The excitement I was feeling made it hard to stand still. As the whine of the jet engines increased, I covered my ears with my hands, muffling the swelling roar. Every other sound was dimmed to nonexistence as the fighter jet prepared to take off, cutting the clear, afternoon air with its deafening thunder. Although the jet was expelling super-heated exhaust, the only thing I could smell was the rubbery tang of sun-warmed asphalt. The energy of the jet was mirrored by the excitement of myself and the other cadets as we stood, waiting for the takeoff. My view of the airplane was broken up into little diamonds by the tall, wire fence that separated me from the taxiway. I had never been so close to something that was so powerful.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
The F-22 Raptor glowed in the heat waves radiating off the pavement. Everything about the fighter jet outlined the power and superiority it held in the aviation world. I had studied, researched, and dreamed about this aircraft, but had never thought I would see one in real life. It was only about 15 yards away, poised like an eagle about to fly. The symmetrical, streamlined body made it the perfect weapon, the ultimate defense.
Slowly, the fighter inched down the pavement. It seemed to take an eternity before it was rolling down the runway. I held my breath and waited, the excitement peaking in my chest. The jet gained speed until it was hurtling down the runway. It seemed like the engines would never be able to lift all 83,500 pounds of fuel and metal. Finally, just when I thought it would never make it, the Raptor raised its nose and lifted gracefully up into the air. It was hard to believe that the F-22 was climbing almost 1,000 feet every second. Within minutes, the jet was but a little speck, climbing into the electric blue sky. I watched until the Raptor completely disappeared from view.
As I turned away from the runway, I saw my brother Elias. He was grinning from ear to ear, looking just as excited as I felt. “Was that awesome or what?” I asked. Elias, the biggest airplane geek in the world, nodded his head and started rambling on about jet specs.
At that moment after the jet had taken off, I knew that my decision to join the Civil Air Patrol had been correct. Since 1941, the Civil Air Patrol has been the civilian auxiliary of the Air Force, providing its members with great opportunities and aerospace education. The group I was part of was touring Langley Air Force Base, one of the places where the Air Force stations the F-22 Raptor. Although watching the Raptor take off was only a small part of the trip, it was by far the most memorable. Standing there that day, I realized the extraordinary achievements of mankind in the field of aerospace. Just over a hundred years ago, Orville and Wilbur Wright were making history with their Wright Flyer, and now the F-22 Raptor was guarding American soil.
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